Etching Process

Etching metal plates is a bit of a tricky one as if at any stage of the process including everything from placing etching ground handling of plate, quality of drawing line correct judgement of etching time. If anything at all is not relatively accurate the results will show on the printing stage no doubt about it. If you are a perfectionist regarding your results and you are fairly new to etching it would probably be best if you can run a test plate first, especially for times line etching and for aquatint shading.

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Drawing on Soft Ground

I was trying to copy my drawing on soft ground using a biro over a photocopied image.

On my first attempt I pulled back the paper to find that I had pressed too hard and unevenly. I decided to roll out the ground again and started with a different finer pen and continued with this although I thought it was a bit light as I was trying not to change pressure and end up with an uneven line. I suppose I was thinking that I could go over the marks later with the etching needle but of course this is tricky and not only risks getting double li nes but is twice the work and will end up like a line etched through hardground anyway not a soft line effect.

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Working with Two Etching Plates

I was inspired to try out a two plate print process with the promise of vibrant interaction between two colours. All set to upstage the single plate process I prepared one soft ground plate with lace pattern and then another plate with hard ground to copy drawing of flower into. I was advised that it would be difficult for the fine line flower drawing to compete with the lace patterned plate and that it would be best to etch the drawing a little more deeply than normal so that the etched line would hold more ink to print with and therefore stand out more against the pattern, I had hoped.

In reality this did not happen. The line drawing etching was so fine, that even a substantially different colour did not make the printed etched line stand out clearly enough. Even attempts at fading background colour for pattern were unsuccessful. Colours I used on the zinc plates altered while inking plates significantly and results were altogether very disappointing.

I felt disheartened that the merging of two plates into one while needing twice the effort provided even less of a result in my mind. The expectations of vibrancy dwindled twofold.

After some time had elapsed I tried the experiment again. Although with hindsight a much thicker line would have been more appropriate, it would have been too difficult to draw a thicker line with a very fine drawing tool so I just tried to widen it a little by using a carefully aligned back and forth movement with the etching needle. I had tried filing down cheap nail tools to a wider thickness but the quality of the metal surface did not remove hard ground cleanly and accurately enough.

I intended to etch the line to a sufficient depth but the appearance of the etched line with wax still on did not seem too deep, but on removal of ground it was more so. On top of this to get the line to print sufficiently I had to use 10 sheets of newsprint to pack the plate through the press ensuring enough pressure.

Results slightly thicker line but still disappointing. Fading background colour too feeble a colour result. Again I was not satisfied with these prints, despite my efforts, which I felt were in vain.

On top of the above and with quite accurately matching plate sizes I tried the trapped paper method of printing two plates where the second plate is replaced in exactly the same position as the first for accurate registraton. This and other methods have not proved successful to me even using flat square angle. I have seen it done successfully by another who showed me the method but with me it seems that paper stretch has been the possible culprit or so it seems.

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